"People will cheer for you as long as you're a winner, but if you stumble, you run the risk that they'll pile on because you were so ambitious … Virtually every time I've been offered an opportunity, I think about the risk I am taking, and ask myself if my abilities measure up."

—Beth Mooney, Chairman and CEO, KeyCorp

Beth Mooney

A common knock on female executives is that they are too timid when it comes to verbalizing their career goals, but Beth Mooney can recall telling colleagues two decades ago at Bank One the she hoped to someday have then-CEO John McCoy's job.

Mooney credits her father, a former chemist with Dow Chemical, for giving her the confidence to pursue her ambitions. "My dad had always told me to be what I wanted to be," says Mooney. "There were never these assumptions that I couldn't do something because I'm a woman.

"My mother, on other hand, always wondered why I wasn't married and having children."

This spring, Mooney boarded a plane to Colorado to visit her father at his nursing home. She wanted to tell him in person that she had just been named CEO at KeyCorp, the first large, U.S.-based banking company to appoint a woman to the top executive post.

"When I told him, he teared up ... and said he was so proud of me," says Mooney. "That he was 92 and still alive and could share that moment meant everything to me."

Three decades ago, women like Mooney were often the only females in management meetings and usually weren’t invited when bank presidents would take their clients to lunch. Today, Mooney marvels at the strides women have made in a single generation, noting that scores of women hold key decision-making positions and that more and more are advancing to senior-level positions each day.

"There have been many talented, successful women who have come ahead of me, and I’m grateful for the trailblazing that they did," she says. "I realize that for a woman to get this job it’s taken a village."

Mooney began her career in corporate banking, at Republic Bank of Texas in the late 1970s, and switched to commercial real estate lending (the "ultimate guys' club," she says) in the 1980s. From there, she took on a series of high-profile jobs, including regional and Ohio president for BankOne, chief financial officer at AmSouth Bancorp., and vice chairman and head of community banking at the $86 billion-asset Key, where she oversaw all of the bank's major business lines. Her aspirations were no secret. "I’ve always been transparent about being as ambitious as my skills would take me," she says.

Mooney's career also was propelled by great coaching and support from bankers including McCoy, former AmSouth CEO Dowd Ritter, and Henry Meyer, her predecessor at Key. "They were all mentors who took an active interest in my career," Mooney says. "No one gave me opportunities that I didn't earn, but they were looking for ways to give me opportunities to help me develop."

Mooney, who took over as CEO in May, also recognizes that she is an inspiration for other up-and-coming female executives. Ultimately she will be judged for her performance as a leader, and not for being the first female to run a big, U.S.-based bank. But Mooney believes that if she is successful in delivering results for customers and shareholders and making Key a more attractive place for employees, more women will aim for the C suite.

"I’m very conscious of those women who will look to me as a role model," she says. "That's why I feel a little extra obligation and a little extra commitment to do this well." —Alan Kline

Donna DeMaio

2. Donna DeMaio
President and CEO, MetLife Bank

Preferring to remain regulated as an insurance company instead of a bank, MetLife puts its deposit-gathering business up for sale this summer. But the biggest piece of MetLife Bank, its mortgage entity, will remain with the company under the leadership of President and CEO Donna DeMaio. The turmoil in the retail home loan industry is pressuring returns, but DeMaio is responding by diversifying, with successful initiatives in warehousing and correspondence lending.

"The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was from my husband, who urged me to slow down and take time to enjoy the small things in life. Relentlessly focusing on the future deprives you of truly enjoying the present."

Diane Reyes

3. Diane Reyes
Global Head of Payments and Cash Management, HSBC

At Citigroup, Diane Reyes was responsible for a global payments business spanning more than 100 countries. This fall, she joined HSBC as global head of payments and cash management, a newly created role at the company. A mentor to many, she remains based in New York and reports to John Coverdale, head of Global Transaction Banking, who says her appointment "underlines HSBC’s continued commitment to investing in our payments and cash management business" and is part of a wider strategy to support global corporate and institutional customers.

"Don’t be afraid to take risks—interview for the next job periodically. Don’t worry if you’re not 100% experienced. If you don’t get the job, you will have broadened your network and increased your visibility for the next opportunity."

CeCe Stewart

4. Cecilia "Cece" Stewart
President of U.S. Consumer and Commercial Banking, Citigroup

Cece Stewart learned her trade at Wachovia, where she rose from branch manager to head of retail over three decades with the bank. In 2008, Morgan Stanley recruited her to develop a branch banking strategy—only to decide it would keep wealth management as its main venue for taking retail deposits. Now she’s back in the traditional-banking fold, having been hired last September for a key post at Citi, where she is the only female member of the firm’s operating committee.

"Always be 'on' when interacting with colleagues and clients. A good friend and mentor taught me early in my career that while showing up is important, it is also critical to make the right impression. Even if you are not feeling your best, make a point a to be positive and engaging because that is the lasting impression you want to leave behind."

Pat Callahan

5. Patricia Callahan
Chief Administrative Officer, Wells Fargo

She directed the integration for one of the most extensive mergers in banking history. She took on responsibility for areas at the heart of reputation management, including corporate communications and corporate human resources. She's a former head of compliance and enterprise risk management. Is there anything Patricia Callahan can’t do at Wells Fargo? This year, the 33-year Wells veteran added enterprise marketing and government relations to her plate, with her promotion in January to chief administrative officer.

"Consider making lateral moves. New functions, new businesses, even new accounts or geographies can expand your understanding and your network and prepare you for the time the advancement opportunity arises."

25 Women to Watch 6-10
25 Women to Watch 11-15
25 Women to Watch 16-20
25 Women to Watch 21-25


Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.